Reporting the Crisis Brings Persecution and Exile for Venezuelan Firemen

The Merida firefighters from the donkey mockery aren’t the only ones on trial. Firemen in Apure and Lara were also brought to justice for showing what their working conditions are like.

Photos: Rosender Evíes

A new viral video reveals the terrible working conditions currently affecting the Venezuelan safety and prevention authorities in the course of their work. This new episode was centered on 15 military officers attached to the National Guard who show the flooding of their entire border outpost in Buenavista El Meta, Apure State, back in August.

All 15 officers in the video were arrested after being called by their superiors with the promise of receiving home appliances. They weren’t given any gifts, and instead are being accused of treason in military courts. They’re currently behind bars in the Detachment 351 (D-351) of San Fernando de Apure, where they’re under disciplinary measures, according to journalist Alexander Medina.

A story that repeats itself

It’s not the first time that the Fire Brigade or public officers denounce the inhumane conditions in which they’re forced to work. After the arbitrary detention of two firefighters who compared Maduro to a donkey, another video went viral on social media. This time the video showed a firefighter and a mototaxista in Barquisimeto, who publicly revealed the lack of equipment within the fire brigade, as the Fire Brigade’s only emergency truck has no engine.

This cruel reality forced a mototaxista to take the firefighter on his bike to the location of the fire, while recording a video of the almost surreal situation. This initiative has already forced this citizen to leave to Colombia, as General Kleider Ferreiro, head of Security of Lara’s Governor’s Office, has publicly said that they’re looking forward to arresting him. On the other hand, the other protagonist, fireman Wilman Cuica, was transferred to Barquisimeto’s central station to work an eight-hour administrative shift as a punishment ordered by Bolivarian mayor Luis Jonás Reyes Flores.

So, what’s really going on with Fire Brigades?

Currently, Iribarren’s Fire Brigade only has 150 officers out of the 800 men required to assist the municipality’s population. Lawyer José Gregorio Zaa, legal advisor for Iribarren municipality’s Fire Brigade since 2003, says that “the few firefighters left are being punished while the fire brigade is being increasingly abandoned.”

The shortage of car parts, tires, batteries and other supplies prevent Iribarren’s Fire Brigade officers from attending daily contingencies in Barquisimeto. Currently, there are only two fire trucks available with a capacity of 3,500 and 1,500 litres of water respectively, out of the 47 trucks of the fleet that should be working in the city. In the last eight years, the National Fund of Firefighters hasn’t provided uniforms or personal protection equipment.

firemen_venezuelaTo put it mildly: Should a serious fire break out in the city, the officers don’t have ambulances, water trucks, rescue trucks or units to put out fires.

It’s obvious why the government wants to cover up how the State’s security and prevention bodies are working, but how far will these measures go? Will this become part of systematic actions to silence public officers? Do they think reality doesn’t speak for itself?

How can they keep us in the shadows if we are surrounded by fire?